WILKES-BARRE — City council lightened the workload for its Thursday meeting by removing from the agenda votes on the sale of a parking garage for $2 million and the resignations of police Chief Marcella Lendacky and Commander Ron Foy.
At Tuesday’s work session, council chairwoman Beth Gilbert asked that her resolution on the resignations be pulled after she failed to get support from the other four council members who were reluctant to weigh in on what they viewed as a personnel matter.
Gilbert has called for Lendacky and Foy to step down after a report done at the request of the city said the two lacked the professional training to hold their senior posts and were responsible for the discord between management and rank-and-file officers.
Councilman Bill Barrett, a former city police chief, pointed out their removals were not included in the 30 recommendations contained in the report, done at a cost of $26,212 in taxpayer funds. He said Lendacky gave notice to Mayor Tony George she would retire June 3. She continues to draw her $95,481-a-year salary while Foy remains in uniform at his $82,515-a-year job.
“My only concern is that this report is not going to be followed by the administration,” Gilbert said.
The mayor said he would follow the recommendations, however.
Gilbert, meanwhile, was not alone in questioning the administration’s proposal to sell the city-owned Park & Lock East garage to Antonio Rado and Martin Mariano, the owners of the high-rise office building next to it. Their company, Washington & Market Street Properties LLC, accepted the premium price set by the mayor for the garage with a market value of $1.5 million, according to an appraisal by attorney Allen P. Rosen of Wilkes-Barre.
The garage is one of the few city assets turning a profit and council wanted answers as to why the sale was being pushed with little advance notice. Council also was under the assumption the garage was included in the study by Desman Design Management looking at possibly selling other parking garages and lots operated by the city and Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority.
“This one is not part of that study,” city Administrator Ted Wampole informed council. The administration was holding confidential discussions on the garage sale after the building owners and their attorney Frank Hoegan approached the city six or seven months ago, Wampole said.
The building owners were losing their tenant Geisinger in January 2019 with its consolidation of offices in the CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park East in Jenkins Township. Geisinger took up more than 200 of the 453 spots in the garage and the building owners wanted to buy Park & Lock East and use the available parking as a selling point in their search for a new tenant.
Geisinger’s move heightened the urgency for the sale so the building owners could begin marketing their site, explained Hoegen. The deed contained a “reverter provision” that added to the complexity of the deal, Hoegen said.
”The langauge is specific in the deed that says that if the parking authority or the city ceases to operate that as a parking garage then the property reverts back to the adjacent property owners,” Hoegen said.
The former Martz building next to Rado and Mariano’s on Public Square is affected by the deed, Hoegen said. But the other owners agreed to waive the “reverter provision” if they are allowed to continue to use the garage, he said.
Council requested the administration contact Desman, the parking authority and the city’s financial adviser, PFM, for their opinions on the garage sale.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.